Improving the efficiency and reliability of wind turbines

Paul Boughton
BMT Syntek Technologies Inc and BMT Reliability Consultants Ltd have announced that they are working closely with a number of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and solution providers in the renewables industry helping them to develop innovative cutting edge technologies, to improve the efficiency and reliability of wind turbines.  

Increasing the swept area of a wind turbine’s blades is the key to improved performance and levels of power generation.  

Understanding the effects that increased loads have on current equipment and taking this knowledge forward into the development of new technology is critical to identifying and designing next generation solutions, which will not only deliver the increased performance, but also do this in a reliable and cost effective manner.

BMT is working on this challenge bringing together a detailed and structured approach to the industry from both an engineering and reliability perspective.

The two sister companies are supporting international OEMs in both the US and Europe in gaining an understanding of the challenges and most importantly, supporting the R&D programmes that will identify and address the challenges during early feasibility and conceptual design work.  This in turn, helps to minimise the uncertainty and risk associated with taking the technologies forward into prototyping and ultimately, into production.

BMT Syntek Technologies is applying its expertise in technology characterisation and systems engineering to technical decision making as part of current investigations for OEMs.  

In a recent project, BMT Syntek Technologies synthesised alternative power conversion systems and analysed alternatives associated with the power system, trading off cost, power density and reliability to recommend a choice between low voltage and medium voltage systems.  In doing so, BMT Syntek Technologies collected, collated and analysed OEM data from many international power system component suppliers.  

Specific investigations included:

* Generator design optimisation study to explore alternative power conversion interfaces and generator regulation approaches, including field weakening for variable wind conditions.  

* Review of current routing and grounding schema for fault protection.

* Exploration of the dependency among design variables such as cable length and maintenance strategy.

* Consideration of the component-level stress in addition to statistical reliability calculations based on failure rate, providing a reliability 'look ahea' specific to this application.

Jim Davis, President of BMT Syntek Technologies, comments: “BMT Syntek Technologies excels at getting the most out of the power generation capability of self-contained 'island' power systems, including ships, offshore platforms and land-based microgrids. BMT Syntek Technologies expertise in assuring electrical system stability and power quality is broadly applicable to the oil and gas sector, where every vessel has demands for flexible high quality power, electric propulsion and terrestrial grid stability. Our recent work in wind turbine generators extends our past work into a market where technology choices are critical to success.”

BMT Reliability Consultants Ltd is providing Reliability and Operations & Maintenance (O&M) support to design teams engaged in the development of next generation off-shore wind turbines. This support enables OEMs to meet the challenges associated with new designs offering double the generating capacity of existing products, and integrates Reliability into the core of the development process, ensuring an optimum balance between Technical Availability and O&M Costs.

The work by the OEMs represents a quantum leap in rotor size and energy capture.  The proposed rotor diameters have swept areas much larger than any existing in service solutions.   Based on its understanding of the challenges of emerging standards such as the IEC 61400-26 Availability guideline, BMT Reliability Consultants has tailored its Reliability and Supportability best practices from the Aerospace sector into a cost effective suite of techniques for the renewables industry.

Richard Wilby, Head of Reliability at BMT comments: “A disciplined Design for Availability approach mitigates the risk of lost production penalties, and enables significant reductions in repair and specialist vessel hire costs downstream. It is therefore critical for organisations developing the next generation of high-capacity wind turbines to drive reliability and support attributes into their designs from the outset.”

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